Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will definitely be elected Taoiseach when the 31st Dail sits for the first time on March 9th after the most sensational General Election in the history of the state.
Kenny’s Fine Gael party, Labour and Sinn Fein have all smashed records with their biggest seat wins ever.
Fianna Fail slumped heavily and lost two thirds of their TDs, the Green Party disappeared and Independents ruled the day in many constituencies.
Fine Gael is on track to win up to 77 seats, seven more than its previous record under Garret Fitzgerald in 1982. Labour could win as many as 38 seats, above the record of 33 under Dick Spring in 1992 and is now the biggest party in Dublin.
Sinn Fein could potentially treble its seats to 15 while Independents and other groups will win as many as 18 seats while all six Green TDs failed to retain their seats.
Turnout in the election at 70pc was up on the previous general election.
Final counts won’t now be concluded until Tuesday after outgoing FF Minister Dick Roche demanded a full recount in Wicklow.
But the likely Coalition between Fine Gael and Labour now depends on talks already underway regarding policy on issues like taxation, budget cuts, property taxes and water charges, all areas where the two parties differ greatly in their outlook.
Several high ranking Fine Gael TDs and prospective Ministers, including Finance spokesman Michael Noonan, have already intimated that Labour are their first and only choice as government partners.
But Kenny may pursue talks with a group of Independents after Gilmore challenged Kenny to strike a deal in the next seven days before the new government has to open talks with Europe and the IMF on the bail-out.
“If Fine Gael want a government for a period of five years, strong, stable that brings together the two largest parties, in what will be the closest we’re going to get in this country to essentially a national government, the Labour Party is willing to play its part in that,” said Gilmore.
“But I do say that the window of opportunity for that to happen is very narrow.
“I believe that a government needs to be formed on the first day the Dail is back which is March 9. So really there’s about a week in which a programme for government can be put together.”
Meanwhile, a delighted Fine Gael leader Kenny said he is looking forward to taking office on March 9th and said: “The people of Ireland have given my party a massive endorsement to form the next government.
“We now stand at a transformative moment in Ireland’s history. We stand on the brink of fundamental change in how we regard ourselves, how we regard our economy and how we regard our society.
“I promise to lead a government worthy of the trust of the people. It is too early to say if we will be in power alone or in coalition with Labour but the priority is to rebuild Ireland’s economy.
“This little country will be seen to be the best in the world by 2016, to do business, raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect.”
Wicklow now won’t return a TD until Tuesday where outgoing Fianna Fail Minister Dick Roche was accused of wasting time and money after he demanded in a last effort to reclaim his seat.
Roche was just three votes behind his party colleague Pat Fitzgerald when he was eliminated after the 13th count and because of the narrow margin between them he was entitled to call for a full recount which was granted.
The Roche application has been questioned by Sinn Fein contender John Brady who said he did not believe Roche is still in contention for one of the five seats in Wicklow.
“It is his democratic right to call for a recount but this is a face-saving exercise and a final kicking of the people from an outgoing minister before he leaves power,” said Brady.
“Because many of the count staff work for Wicklow County Council, the recount will bring the county to a standstill on Monday.”
Fine Gael candidate Simon Harris said Roche’s decision was disappointing and represents a significant waste of resources.
That Wicklow recount won’t start until Monday morning with the first result in the constituency not expected until Tuesday morning at the earliest.
The Fianna Fail curse in the 2011 General Election hit Mary Hanafin as Scrap Saturday was followed by a shocking Sunday for the outgoing Government.
Hanafin, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in the last Dail, was the latest big name casualty as vote counting wound down across the country.
People Before Profit candidate Richard Boyd Barrett ousted Hanafin on the 11th count in Dun Laoghaire without reaching the quota.
“This is the start of a new political era in Ireland and we will build on it,” pledged community activity Boyd Barrett after finally making it to the Dail after several failed election attempts.
Hanafin has refused to retire from politics despite her treatment at the polls.
“Politics is in my blood and public service is in my bones, so I certainly see myself continuing in some role,” said the former Minister
“People on the doorsteps made it very clear to me that this was an anti-Fianna Fail stance they were taking and nothing personal.
“I do believe we can rebuild the party but I am worried that we only have one TD in Dublin and the fact that we have no women in the new Dail at all is a real worry.”
Don’t fret too much for the government ministers kicked out of Dail Eireann by an angry electorate – they will still pick up a handsome goodbye check from their time in Leinster House.
Those Fianna Fail and Green ministers who lost their portfolio and seats can still pick up anything up to $120,000 in golden handshakes.
Under 1992 legislation introduced all ex-ministers get severance payments for two years as compensation for the loss of a ministerial salary.
Fine Gael want to abolish the payments but can’t do so before the likes of Mary Coughlan, Mary Hanafin and Pat Carey claim severance payments worth in or around €88,000 each.
Outed Green Party cabinet ministers John Gormley, Eamon Ryan and former junior minister Ciaran Cuffe and Mary White also qualify for severance payments but Gormley and Ryan will give their money to the Green Party and other charities.
Micheal Martin, who surrendered his own entitled during the election campaign, has confirmed that former Fianna Fail ministers who held their seats won’t take severance payments.
Here’s a barometer of the Fianna Fail collapse – there are now no TDs from the Republican party in Meath, Tipperary, Sligo, Kerry, Leitrim or Roscommon.
Brian Lenihan is the only Fianna Fail TD in any of the 12 Dublin constituencies and 47 seats – and there won’t be one female TD from Fianna Fail in the new Dail.
Leader Micheal Martin faces a major battle to rebuild the Fianna Fail brand after its first preference vote more than halved, down to just 17.4%.
Fianna Fáil suffered a number of high profile casualties including Mary Coughlan, Mary O’Rourke, Mary Hanafin, Sean Haughey, Barry Andrews, John O’Donoghue and Conor Lenihan.
The 2011 General Election returned a record number of 23 female TDs and that number could rise when the final counts conclude on Tuesday.